Netflix to block workarounds that increase content

Netflix users would have access to just 143 TV shows and 438 movies, representing 12.36% and 9.54% respectively of the content available in the US.

January 17, 2016 19:22
2 minute read.
Netflix logo

Netflix logo. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Just a week after it announced that it was offering its services in almost every country around the world, Netflix on Thursday announced plans to block hacks that broaden its content library.

Already, users in some countries were dismayed that the streaming video service was offering them limited content for the same price.

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A study published by found that in Israel, Netflix users would have access to just 143 TV shows and 438 movies, representing 12.36% and 9.54% respectively of the content available in the US.

"[G]iven the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory," Netflix VP of Content Delivery Architecture David Fullagar noted in the blog post. "In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location."

Such restrictions have led to the unusual situation where Netflix in Israel is not allowed to stream some of its most well-known original content, such as the series House of Cards, because it licensed the show to Israeli TV networks.

Before Netflix was legally available in Israel, some users turned to IP scramblers of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to disguise their location. Since its launch, they have continued using them to gain access to the much larger US library.

In the coming weeks, Fullagar wrote in his post, "those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies."

That could spell bad news for both consumers and for companies that provide workarounds.

One such company, MatchboxAir, says it is not concerned that Netflix will be able to detect and block its services.

"The VPNs they're talking about are products that are downloaded off of websites. This is a physical router, a different product altogether, so I don't think it's a concern that they'll detect it," said Steven Rosen, a member of the company's marketing team.

Yet the prospect of paying for a special router and monthly subscription fees may not appeal to risk-averse users, who could find the content blocked regardless of their efforts.

While Netflix promises to increase the content levels in its international offerings over time, the current situation is likely to dampen enthusiasm for signing up in the near term.

When faced with shelling out a monthly subscription fee for a diminished catalog or paying both a Netflix subscription and a fee for the workaround to access the full library, Israelis may opt to simply stick to their current methods for watching their favorite movies and series.

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